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Pediatric Acupuncture

Kids and Acupuncture: An unlikely pairing that yields surprising results.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that treats a wide range of conditions through the stimulation of specific points on the body with thin metal needles inserted through the skin. It is widely practiced in the United States through private acupuncture practitioners as well as in more than one third of pain treatment centers across the country. In fact, one study showed that acupuncture is effective in treating adult postoperative nausea as well as nausea related to chemotherapy. Other research shows its effectiveness for ailments such as menstrual cramps, low back pain, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

The efficacy of acupuncture is proven in adults but, until now, there has been very little research to support the efficacy of acupuncture in children. However, the use of acupuncture to treat medical issues from colic to ADHD in children is gaining popularity. A recent study showed that the use of acupuncture as a treatment for lazy eye is as effective as the traditional eye patch treatment. Another study found that acupuncture can help alleviate nausea and pain associated with chronic illness in children. Conventional medication can be complemented with acupuncture to reduce the common side effects that come with higher doses of medicine in some cases as well.

While kids and needles do not usually peacefully coexist, acupuncture in children may not be as frightening for them as it sounds. Skilled pediatric acupuncture practitioners use a variety of techniques to help children become comfortable with the idea of the needles. Practitioners spend a lot of time explaining the treatment to children and their families. A practitioner may demonstrate the therapy on a stuffed animal or even his own hand to show children what to expect during the acupuncture session. He will describe the difference between the acupuncture needle and a typical injection or intravenous needle. Acupuncture needles are smaller and not hollow so they do not rip the skin like typical needles. It is relatively painless if done by a trained practitioner who is specifically licensed to practice pediatric acupuncture. Children are usually surprised at how little discomfort they actually feel.

A visit with your child’s primary care provider can help you determine if pediatric acupuncture is right for your child. They can also direct you to licensed acupuncturists who specialize in pediatric care.


More from Carolyn C. Ross M.D., M.P.H.
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